The presidency of the French bishops was received in audience by Pope Francis for about 30 minutes on April 21, 2022. They discussed, among other things, the follow-up to the French report on sexual abuse in the Church, as well as the elections debates underway before Sunday’s presidential election.
The Holy Father also discussed with the bishops the application of his norms on the Latin Mass, spelled out in his Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.
According to the bishops, the Pope recalled “forcefully” that the decree exempting priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) from the provisions was indeed his.
In February, the Pontiff received two leaders of this fraternity, which was founded specifically for the use of ancient liturgical books but intent on maintaining loyalty to Rome. The Pontiff told them that the Fraternity does not fall within the restrictions he put forth on the celebration of this Mass.
The Pope “insisted on the second section,” the French bishops said. Section 2 of Art 3 spells out that the members of groups such as the Fraternity of St. Peter have the faculty to celebrate Mass and the sacraments according to the 1962 Missal only in their own churches and oratories, not parish churches.
With the French bishops, the Pope did not speak of a possible extension of the decree to other institutes.
Insisting on the authority of the bishop to evaluate individual situations, which is one of the main points of the Motu proprio, Pope Francis also maintained that all priests must agree to concelebrate, “at least for the Chrism Mass.”
This Mass, which takes place during Holy Week, is an opportunity for priests to renew their priestly promises around the local bishop and to demonstrate the unity of the Catholic Church.
The issue of concelebration — where two or more priests join at the altar to celebrate together one Mass — is a point of contention with certain traditionalist groups, such as the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French bishop and is not in full communion with Rome.
During the exchange, the Pope and the presidency of the French bishops did not mention the initiative of “The Roman Way,” the mothers of priests attached to the Tridentine rite who are currently marching from Paris to Rome. On May 4, they plan to greet Pope Francis at the end of his Wednesday morning catechesis and ask him to reconsider his Motu Proprio.